BORGO SAN LORENZO

Borgo San Lorenzo – km 32 – Refreshment N° 7

Finally, once we pass the modern bridge over the Sieve River, which over the centuries was preceded by a bridge by the De Medici family (1625) and another in the nineteenth century (1846) which in turn was later destroyed twice, the second time at the end of the Second World War, we enter Borgo San Lorenzo, “capital” of the Mugello.

In 1748 the historian Giuseppe Maria Brocchi defined the area as “A most trafficked and populated land, whereby live three thousand people under the care of its parish church (today there are sixteen thousand), in which resides for Civil Cases a Podestà (Mayor), with his Ministers, a Chancellor and a Gonfaloniere (standard bearer), who together with other persons represents this Community and who in turn maintain a Teacher in the public school and a Doctor. In this place are also present many churches, Confraternities, Monasteries and various Orators.”

Let us leave the eighteenth century writings of Brocchi by remembering that the ancient Castle of Borgo San Lorenzo was once a fortified roman suburb (Annejanum). In 1351 the castle was reinforced with an entry Gate, walls, posterns and towers and played a role the war of the Florentine Republic against the Visconti from Milan.

Over the centuries the town became a commercial hub of great importance which was bolstered after the unification of Italy in 1861 by a committee of “wise men” which was specifically called to represent the Italian State in the territory of the Mugello and Upper Mugello including Santerno which set up government offices (Registry Office, Taxation Office, Office of State Monopolies, Land Titles Office and Justice Department Office), as well as Command Posts for the Carabinieri, Finance Police and the Forestry Corps.

While there are many urbanistic and architectural aspects of the ancient Borgo such as Porta Fiorentina, Torre civica dell’Orologio, Torri di Guardia, Palazzo della Podestà, streets and lanes, as well as town squares small and large. This town in the centre of the Mugello also includes some sacred edifices of great relevance and particular historical, architectural and artistic importance. Some of the most significant are: the Pieve di San Lorenzo, dating back to the end of the first millennium (the first documents refer to it at about 908AD), it was raised on the ruins of a roman temple dedicated to Bacchus and according to tradition was blessed in 393AD by Saint Ambrosias, bishop of Milan, during a stop the saint made in Mugello during a trip from Faenza to Florence as a guest of the Bishop of Florence Zanobi. The church of vast dimensions is laid out in the form of a basilica with three naves formed by impressive columns with almost primordial Corinthian capitals. Many works by artists from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries refine the eight lateral altars. The apse (1906) depicting Christ the King between Saint Laurence and Saint Martin is the work of Galileo Chini, the greatest exponent of Liberty style of the early twentieth century. Without doubt the most important masterpiece is the “Madonna and child” attributed to Giotto and the sole work by the great painter in the Mugello which was held for some centuries by the Oratorio di Sant’Omobono, which is right in front of the very same Romanesque style church. Most striking is the Lombardo-Romanesque style bell tower which rises directly above the apse, constructed as an irregular hexagon, a truly unique structure with each of the four side (north, south, east and west) completely different. Next to the Pieve rises the Monastero Domenicano di Santa Caterina, in all its magnificence. It was built in 1515 while on the opposite side of the town the thirteenth century Church of San Francesco is the sole example of gothis style in the Mugello and together with the Santuario del SS Crocefisso (1714/1743) that is of classical baroque design which decorates the Franciscan church, furnishes a truly incomparable view.

There is much more than could be said, but our path is still long as once we leave Borgo San Lorenzo on the road to Faenza there are many things to quote and remember in a profuse mix that that admirably blends art, history and nature in the heart of the Mugello. The road to Ronta is beautiful, wide and comfortably airy. The vineyards and olive groves on the gentle slopes resemble a rural painting and the long rows of cypress trees delight the eyes of lovers of the beautiful, clean and untainted.

Aldo Giovannini